Eyeing perfection

Modern eye surgery is an option for sportsmen to perform better

Clive Lloyd, batsman and captain, played for the West Indies with his distinctive bottle-sized specs. His poor vision did not stop him from ferociously cutting and pulling the fastest bowlers of his time. But spectacles in sports can be dangerous. Today's players, like Saurav Ganguly, wear contact lenses rather than spectacles. Contacts are more convenient, less dangerous, and they do endorsement deals no harm. But contact lenses too have their limits, and athletes who can afford it are opting for permanent surgical cures. The cornea, more than even the lens, is the most powerful refractor of the eye. Modern eye surgeries focus on remodelling the cornea, and thereby correct refractive errors that lead to faulty vision. Athletes expect an improvement in performance following surgery, but improved vision need not always transform into improved performance. For example, a batsman will definitely benefit from improved vision, but a bowler need not attain the same advantage. After all, a stationery target does not tax the eyes as much as a 100 mile-an-hour cricket ball.Radial keratotomy (RK), photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), and laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) are the three most common corneal remodelling surgeries.Each sport carries its risks, and some surgeries are not for all. For example, athletes involved in contact sports should avoid radial keratotomy, which increases the risk of globe rupture with injury. LASIK too increases the risk of corneal damage following trauma, and contact sports are best avoided here too.Surgery carries risks. Remodelling does not always match expectations. Under-correction of refractive error is common. Some athletes who opt for surgery with the hope that they will never have to wear spectacles again will be surprised by having to wear spectacles indefinitely (for eye protection!).Most athletes can get by on contact lenses, and there are very few instances when corrective surgery is a must. Athletes who do opt for surgery must learn to live with an increased risk of eye complications following trauma, and they must keep their expectations realistic. Just because you see the ball better now does not mean you will hit more runs automatically. Sport involves complex skills, and it usually requires an improvement in more than just vision to create better overall performance. RAJIV. M

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